Archive

freelancing

For those who have been following along with my recent adventures getting into (or back into, as the case may be) D&D, dungeon crawlers, board games, and so on, the latest installment of my “I Played It, Like, Twice” column is up at Unwinnable today, marking the confluence of all of those interests and more.

As I say over there, Warhammer was one of my earliest fandoms, and it was followed in short order by the Elric stories of Michael Moorcock. Both those and other things, along with my obsession with dungeon crawl board games with their delightful miniatures and tiles, all crash together in Warhammer Quest, a game that has been released in a variety of forms over the years.

As I mentioned in the column, I actually had the very first copy of Warhammer Quest, back when it neither needed nor had any subtitle. It was a bit of a mess in a lot of ways, but there was something magical about those illustrated dungeon tiles, the sensation of reaching a plastic doorway and turning over a card to see what waited on the other side, never quite knowing.

I’m happy to say that Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower keeps more than a little of that magic alive, and in a game that plays better than its predecessor ever did. I’m unhappy to say, though, that it’s now well and truly out of print. The game’s most recent incarnation, Blackstone Fortress, is a big deviation, taking the setting to the “grim darkness of the far future” of Warhammer 40,000. I haven’t played it yet, but it’s sitting on my shelf. Waiting.

Shortly after I finished writing today’s article, though, and shortly before it went to print, Games Workshop announced the next iteration of the Warhammer Quest franchise. Cursed City takes the action back to the Age of Sigmar and sounds like Castlevania by way of Warhammer. As I said on social media when the news broke, “It was nice knowing you, money.”

Warhammer Quest is also far from the only iteration of the popular setting that I’ve been enjoying during the pandemic, either. I’ve gotten heavily invested in Warhammer Underworlds, which released its new season recently, and which is probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing a tabletop wargame.

My favorite warband is Mollog’s Mob for … obvious reasons. But one thing I love about the game is its ability to allow you to (affordably) collect warbands, instead of collecting individual models for one faction, and having to leave the others on the vine.

While I’ve been getting back into Warhammer stuff, I’ve also not forgotten some of my other loves, and I recently had the opportunity to do quite a bit of work on the newest iteration of the Iron Kingdoms Roleplaying Game from Privateer Press, this time compatible with 5e D&D. The Kickstarter for the books that I helped write is still underway and, as of this writing, has nearly quadrupled its funding goal, with a little over a week left.

I think it’ll be an interesting thing, both for newcomers to the setting and old hands who, like myself, have been around since the original Witchfire Trilogy all those years ago.

While I’ve been immersed in games a lot more lately – both writing and playing, or at least thinking about playing – I’ve also been hard at work on other things. The pandemic damaged my attention span for watching movies, but in January I finally seem to have gotten it back, and I’ve been back doing reviews again. I also contributed a second H Word column to Nightmare Magazine, about victims, volunteers, and how the Vietnam War changed horror.

I guess columns have been where it’s at for me, lately. In addition to that, and my aforementioned board game column at Unwinnable, as well as my “Grey’s Grotesqueries” column in Weird Horror, I just started a new monthly column at Signal Horizon, dedicated to deep dives into horror television series. If all goes according to plan, the first full year of “Something Weird on TV” will be dedicated to Friday the 13th: The Series, a before-its-time horror anthology-hybrid show that I had never actually seen even a single episode of before starting this column.

So that’s (some of) what I’ve been up to. To bring us back around to the beginning of this post, I used to have a handful of worn paperbacks of Michael Moorcock’s Elric stories that I read and re-read throughout high school. One of those was The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, which a friend had defaced by adding the word “Moon” after “Sailor” in ballpoint pen.

I don’t know if I still have that copy, but I hope I do.

Now that it’s December, I think I can say with finality that 2020 will mark the first year since 2015 that I haven’t had a new book out with my name on the spine. It would be tempting to chalk this up to, y’know, 2020, and it’s certainly why there may not be one in 2021 either, but publishing is a slow business, and anything that was going to come out in this dark year would have already been in progress before the year began.

In actuality, there is no reason – either sinister or benign – for there not being a book this year, just as there is no real reason for their being a book each of those others. My first collection came out in 2012, the same year that I co-edited Fungi with Silvia Moreno-Garcia. My second, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, was released by Word Horde in 2015. The following year saw the release of Monsters from the Vault, a collection of short essays I had written as part of a column about vintage horror cinema for Innsmouth Free Press.

In 2017, I released both my first and, thus far, only novel – a licensed work for Privateer Press – and a hardcover reprint of my first collection, with a couple of new stories and all-new illustrations by M.S. Corley. 2018 saw the release of my third collection, again from Word Horde, while in 2019 a follow-up to Monsters from the Vault hit shelves.

I have more than enough stories to complete another collection – probably a couple more – but the time is not yet right for any of them. The stories are there, but they do not all fit together. Eventually, those stories will find other stories and together they will form the collections they are meant to inhabit. Until that time, I keep churning.

The next book that’s likely to come out with my name on the cover is probably going to be Neon Reliquary, the short, occult cyberpunk novel that is currently being released in serial form at the Broken Eye Books Patreon. Some delays happened, and they are my fault, but the second installment should be up in the next month or two.

Several stories have already made their way out into the public in various places that are part of a “story cycle” based around Hollow Earths and similar pseudoscience. Once all of those have made their initial bows, the plan is to collect them – along with some original content – into a book, as well. Almost all of them are written and either published or pending publication – one has even made it into the Best Horror of the Year and been reprinted at Nightmare magazine – but various factors have delayed, well, everything, right?

I spent November working on a 40,000 word tabletop gaming-related work-for-hire project that I should be able to announce probably early next year. I had a few new stories published in 2020 that I’m quite proud of. More than in 2019, though not by much. “Prehistoric Animals” in the Weird Fiction Review, “The All-Night Horror Show” at The Dark magazine, “Manifest Destiny” in The Willows Anthology, which also reprinted some of my unfortunate juvenilia from a bygone age, “Screen Haunt” in It Came from the Multiplex, and “The Double-Goer” in Between Twilight and Dawn.

I’ve also sold several stories that have yet to see publication but should be out sometime next year. A Lucio Fulci sword-and-sorcery tribute in Beyond the Book of Eibon, “The Robot Apeman Waits for the Nightmare Blood to Stop” in Tales from OmniPark – both of which were funded via Kickstarter – and new stories in that Hollow Earth “story cycle” I mentioned that will be out in New Maps of Dream from PS Publishing and Tales from Arkham Sanitarium from Dark Regions Press. Plus some others that I can’t name just yet.

2020 has been 2020 for everyone. Someone on one of the Slacks that I’m on said that we are all a decade older than we were this time last year, which sounds about right. But so far I’m hanging in there, and I’m still banging out words on the regular, so expect to see more from me as we end this accursed year and start another, hopefully better one.

I hope you’re all hanging in there, too. Stay safe, stay weird.

I’ve never officially participated in National Novel Writing Month and, most likely, I never shall. This is not because of any grudge against NaNoWriMo so much as because I don’t really write novels and if I do, it will probably be under other circumstances.

In fact, the only novel I’ve ever written was a tie-in novel for Privateer Press penned, as fate would have it, largely over the course of a November and December back in 2016. (Which is, incidentally, also why I say that I haven’t ever officially participated in a NaNoWriMo – I did knock out 50,000 words of Godless in November of that year, because deadlines are a hell of a thing.)

It’s not quite so ambitious as that was, but this November I’m actually engaged in another work-for-hire project that is also game related, also due at the end of the month, and about 40,000 or so words of work.

It’ll be in a different form than Godless was and isn’t a sequel or anything, for those rare few who were hoping for such a thing. But once again I am experiencing some NaNoWriMo solidarity as I knuckle down to try to churn out a whole lot of words on top of my usual freelance work for the month.

Sadly, the nature of the project has to remain a secret for now, but as soon as I can let you know what it is, I certainly shall.

So, if you don’t hear from me much in November, that’s why. And if you hear from me a bunch more than usual? That’s also why.

Look, I don’t understand it myself – and, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t really tried very hard to understand it because most days just doing what I’ve gotta do to get by is enough – but reading has been really tough during the pandemic.

I don’t have any idea why (see above), but my to-be-read pile has basically not budged one micron since lockdown began. Ditto with writing fiction, for the most part.

Oh, I’ve been working, still. I’ve been freelancing at about the same pace I was before. I’ve read for work; done some copyedits that I was contracted to do. I’ve written nonfiction: articles and columns and also been working on some other … let’s call them projects. (Mostly homebrew game stuff no one will ever see.)

But when it comes time to actually put digital quill to page and write a story that I don’t already owe to anyone? It just hasn’t been there. Normally, that’s the horror of the writer, right? That we’ll wake up one day and it’ll just be gone. We won’t be able to do it anymore. There won’t be any stories there.

Yet, for whatever reason, I’m not too scared this time. This doesn’t feel like the end; it doesn’t really even feel like a dry spell. It just feels like the end of a long day of work, when you’re not feeling up to even watching a movie or anything more than staring at whatever happens to be on the TV at the moment.

So far, I’m okay with letting it just be that. With letting what I have to do to keep the lights burning and food on the table be enough. With my recent spate of dungeon crawl board games and D&D reading being what I do to keep out the dark, for the time being.

So far, so good.

So, it’s been a minute. (Approximately 28,800 of them, actually.) What have I been doing with myself during quarantine? Not what I would have expected, necessarily.

For example, unlike a great many people, I haven’t been watching a lot more movies or television, though, like, I gather, a great many other people, I also haven’t been reading any more books than I was before, maybe less.

Mostly, I’ve been working, and while that’s occasionally been on fiction, more often it’s been on, more or less, the same kind of freelance stuff that I was doing before the pandemic. I’ve also increased the frequency of my appearances on the Horror Pod Class, where we’ve been doing weekly episodes due to the lockdown.

Recent episodes have included talking with author Max Brooks about bigfoots and the reassuring quality of Peter Graves, chatting with Pitch editor and semi-professional podcast haver Brock Wilbur about how, where we’re going, we won’t need eyes to see, and just our usual bullshit about cursed films.

None of that new fiction stuff is in any fit state for public consumption just yet, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some news on that front, too. My story “Screen Haunt” will be showing up in mailboxes and bookstores (if there are still such things) later this year in It Came from the Multiplex, a fun-looking antho from Hex Publishers themed around ’80s horror. My contributor’s copy came the other day, and the book looks fantastic, even if I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

Speaking of reading, I somehow managed to swallow down my anxiety enough to perform the narration of my story “Dream House” for Pseudopod recently. (Listen to the story and you’ll hear why.) You have my apologies for the narration, but the story has always been a favorite, and it brings back good memories.

The lockdown means that I haven’t been out to the theater in a while, and there’s been a commensurate slowdown in my reviews of other titles, as well. But I haven’t been idle! Earlier this month, I kicked off the first in a new recurring column that I’ll be writing at Unwinnable in which I talk about the eternal allure of board games … especially those that we pretty much never play.

The first installment talks about playing Horrified in the midst of a global pandemic, which has naturally limited my playing options. I have plans for future installments that will hopefully include, y’know, playing them with actual other people. We’ll see.

On a similar note, I’ve also been digging into 5e D&D for the first time in a while and … enjoying it a lot more than I would have expected. While the lockdown has put certain necessary constraints on my actual playing options, I’ve really been enjoying what we have done, and just paging through the books and acquainting myself with setting and rules. I’m surprised, but happy to be so.

Oh, and I did that Penguin Classics cover generator thing that was going around for a minute there with my books, too. So that’s fun.

February has been extremely busy for me so far, and I’m still behind on lots of things from the cough that has kept me a prisoner since the end of October (it’s still here, by the way, but it is gradually weakening). Which is why you haven’t heard from me much in the last couple of weeks.

But last Saturday I went thrifting with Eli (of Analog Sunday fame) for his birthday, then back to his place to watch some weird tapes, as we are wont to do. Thrifting was a huge success, and I’ve been posting some of my loot over on Instagram, if you wanna go be jealous.

I’ve made a few other stops various places while I was out running this or that errand lately, and had similarly great luck, as has Grace in her efforts to track down rare and unusual dice. So, while February has still been extremely busy, it has also been nice.

I’ll take busy and nice. And today, I got an email from a client telling me that I was getting an unasked-for raise on my regular freelance rates from them due to the “consistent positive feedback from our editors in regards to your work.” Which is always a nice thing to hear.

So, not every day is great, but today is pretty good. I’ll take it.

84876469_10218703640876299_967549350311886848_n

Unknown SkeletonAt the start of this decade, I made my first-ever professionally-qualifying sale. (Pro rates were somehow even lower then than they are now.) I had been writing since I learned how, and seriously attempting to publish since I graduated college not quite a decade before that.

In 2012, the first edition of my first collection, Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, came out. In five years it would be out of print, then back in print, in a new, hardcover deluxe edition from Strix Publishing.

Looking back, it came out too soon. Not that I’m not proud of the collection – I am, completely, if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have allowed it to be reissued. I just wasn’t at the “first collection” stage in my career quite yet, but I didn’t know that then.

In the years since, I’ve published two more collections of stories, both with Ross Lockhart’s Word Horde press, not to mention two collections of essays on vintage horror films, both with Innsmouth Free Press. I’ve published more than fifty short stories, and been in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year three times.

I co-edited my first anthology with Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which got translated into Japanese.

I’ve done work for Privateer Press, writing short fiction and in-game content, adventures, and even a licensed novel that is technically my first published novel-length work. In the last year alone I’ve written nearly fifty movie reviews for Unwinnable and Signal Horizon, where I also now co-host a podcast.

I’ve written introductions for reissues of some of my favorite books, including Benighted and collections by Robert Westall, from Valancourt Books, and introductions to collections by some of my favorite contemporaries, including Nick Mamatas and Amanda Downum. I have nonfiction bylines in places like Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, and Nightmare Magazine.

I’ve been a guest at several wonderful conventions and festivals, gone on a great many podcasts, introduced movies at the local movie theatres, and much more. There are so many things on this list that, had you told me about them ten years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Of all the many surprising things that have happened to me over the course of the last decade, though, perhaps the most surprising is that I quit my day job to write full-time all the way back in 2013, and I haven’t had to give it up yet.

Fiction writing certainly doesn’t pay the bills, so most of my time is dedicated to freelancing, but, as they say in Major League 2, a day of playing baseball is better than whatever most people have to do for a living.

It wasn’t until Grace was asking me if I was planning to do some kind of decade-in-review that I realized how much my life has changed in these past ten years, so it seemed worth taking note. I went from being virtually unpublished (I had sold a few stories, but not many) to having six or more books (depending on how you count) with my name on the spine and writing for a living.

Not too shabby, all in all.

Lately, work has been a lot like slaying hydras. For every job that I finish, two more seem to take its place. This is what we in the business call “good problems.”

Hydra (1)

However, it has still been a lot, and there’s every chance that something has fallen through the cracks. If you’re waiting on me for something, thank you for your patience, and please feel free to nudge me. I will, at worst, tell you that you’ll have to wait a little longer.

When I originally posted this yesterday, I didn’t realize (see above re: being busy) that today was the birthday of the late, great Ray Harryhausen, one of the best monster guys of all time. So, in honor of the occasion, take a break for me and watch a Harryhausen flick. They’re all good.

While we’re on the subject, here’s a link to a couple of years ago when I got to visit the Ray Harryhausen exhibit, in spite of being laid up from surgery.

Through it all, I did make it out to a few movies, including Annabelle Comes Home, which was great, and The Dead Don’t Die, which… probably wasn’t great, but I had fun. I also reviewed the second volume of Arrow Video’s American Horror Project, which is its own whole weird thing, and the Unearthed Films release of The Dark Side of the Moon, which is Event Horizon before Event Horizon and/or a Dennis Wheatley novel in spaaaace.

More soon, once these hydra heads stop multiplying…

If anything defines semi-personal blogging in this, the far-flung future of 2019, it is opening every single post with an apology (even if veiled or joking) about how long it’s been since your last post. “Forgive me, Father,” and all that. But all joking and acquiescence to form aside, I have no idea what has happened to most of May.

If you’ve been following along on social media, where updates are somewhat less sporadic, you’ll probably have noticed that it’s mostly been nothing but pictures and links and the occasional notation of what I’ve been watching. I’d love to say that this was an explanation, but I don’t know that I have one.

I know that I’ve been busy with this and that bit of freelance work. I know that I’ve taken a couple of non-work-related out-of-town trips that haven’t required me to go very far but have sapped a fair amount of my energy. I know that my household suffered through about a week of feeling generally under-the-weather and that, in fact, 21 days is only three weeks all told, but still, it really seems like there must be something I’m leaving out.

If there is, though, I’m afraid that I am as in the dark about it as you are. Direct pre-orders closed on Revenge of Monsters from the Vault, and while we didn’t quite hit the goal we were aiming for, we got pretty close. Normal pre-orders will be up soon enough, and the book and myself will both be present at NecronomiCon Providence in a few months.

There are some story announcements in the pipeline, but nothing new to report just yet. Freelance work has been occupying most of my time, though I did recently get hired to do a bit of work that was more than usually in my wheelhouse. If you like my writing about old monster movies, a reminder that, while it is currently not available for pre-order, Revenge of Monsters from the Vault is going to be nothing but that for more than 200 pages, so keep an eye on this space!

So, of course, the big news is that my latest collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales is less than a month away! It’s currently available for pre-order from Word Horde, not to mention on all your favorite electronic devices! I’ll be talking a lot more about it as we get closer to release, but in the mean time, other things continue to happen, too…

My story “No Exit” appeared in Lost Highways: Dark Fictions from the Road from Crystal Lake Publishing not too long ago. “No Exit” is another in my very loose story-cycle of tales that take place in the same world–or, perhaps more accurately, the same version of this world–along with “Hollow Earths” in Chthonic: Weird Tales of Inner Earth from Martian Migraine Press and a few others that haven’t actually seen print yet and some that have before I knew that I was writing a story cycle. More on that as it develops.

Speaking of stories, I have a very short one called “Masks” in the latest issue of Forbidden Futures, a magazine inspired by (and featuring) the art of Mike Dubisch. “Masks” tells the tale of what waits in the cluttered townhouse of an old makeup artist who has passed on, but left a few things behind.

Aside from writing stories, I spend most of my time on various freelance content jobs. Not too long ago, one of my freelance clients put me on retainer to write original mysteries for a sort of monthly murder mystery box called The Murder Chronicles. The contents will include “found documents” like newspaper articles, journal entries, notes, photographs, and more, all painting the story of a new mystery every month in the fictional Kansas town of Baker City. So far I’ve written a few months worth, and the first one should be shipping as I write this!

Murder Chronicles

Because they’re work-for-hire you won’t find my name on them anywhere, and because they’re written to order, the results are much more your typical “cozy mystery” than the weird horror stuff that you’re used to from me. But if a monthly murder mystery sounds like your cup of poison, it would probably help keep me gainfully employed if you were to subscribe and see how you like it.

A few months ago I was also a guest on the Lit KC podcast with my friend and former co-worker Jason Preu. The episode went live today as the show’s season finale, and in spite of the fact that I recorded it in the midst of the various stresses that have been my last year or so, I actually seem relatively coherent throughout, though my facts about Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales are necessarily somewhat dated. For one thing, it is actually going to have no less than four (4) original stories, though it’s still only 14 stories long. (Ah, the mysteries of publishing!)

That’s about it for now, but the Halloween season has officially begun, with stores starting to stock suitably spooky doodads, so there’ll be lots of seasonal content coming from me, not to mention lots more about Guignol in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned!